4 Takeaways from Our Shark Week Campaign

Zoo Atlanta

The Zoo Atlanta team rocking their shark hats during Shark Week 2016.

For years, VolunteerMatch has supported Discovery Communications by providing employee volunteer management software. This year — and for the first time ever — VolunteerMatch partnered with Discovery to dive into unchartered waters: Shark Week (6/26/16 – 7/2/16). Shark Week is Discovery’s longest-running cable television programming event, and as part of our partnership, we helped inspire volunteerism among Discovery’s passionate viewers and our own followers. Discovery even re-created this awesome PSA to help.

For us, we teamed up with 12 other organizations in our network — from nonprofits focused on marine causes to environmental organization and aquariums across the country — to help spread the word. These organizations responded and proved to their communities that #VolunteeringisFin.

In the weeks leading up to Shark Week, VolunteerMatch pondered questions like, “What do volunteers and sharks have in common?” and found some pretty surprising answers. We even quizzed San Franciscans on their knowledge of shark facts, raising awareness right from the hotspots of our hometown.

We also launched our very first Instagram Sweepstakes, garnering 40 entries, as well as fun conversations and engagement with our online community. What did we learn from this campaign? Here are four key takeaways from Shark Week:

  1. A Strong Partnership can be Creative and Fun

Earlier this year, Discovery Communications and VolunteerMatch renewed our multi-year partnership. Since then, we’ve continued to support one another’s goals and causes by building on impactful initiatives — like National Volunteer Week and Shark Week. By supporting one another, even in unexpected ways, we can play into each of our strengths and continue to work toward making our world a better place.

  1. Organizations Are Eager to Partner with Your Cause
Reef Check Foundation

Reef Check Foundation swims while wearing shark hats during Shark Week 2016.

We reached out to over a dozen organizations to help spread the word. Twelve responded with their excitement and willingness to help even before learning they’d get some pretty cool sharkfin hats to wear. These organizations showcased their volunteers across the U.S. — cleaning beaches, supporting animal causes, and teaching youth campers the importance of giving back (all while having a good time in the process).

Transparency and communication are key here. If you communicate openly and honestly, many organizations will partner with you to help amplify your message. Special thanks to: Aquarium of the Bay, Aquarium of the Pacific, California State Parks Foundation, City of Newport Beach Recreation & Senior Services Department, Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center, Georgia Aquarium, Piedmont Park Conservancy, Reef Check, Shark Stewards, Zoo Atlanta, and Zoo Miami.

  1. Hashtags Are Essential in Telling Your Story

On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we encouraged followers and visitors alike to showcase their volunteer impact during Shark Week by using the hashtag “#VolunteeringisFin.” The hashtag was mentioned 27 times on Facebook, 15 on Twitter, and 14 on Instagram, allowing people to follow the story across channels — through whatever medium they prefer.

  1. Lower Barriers for Social Media Promotions

Hosting a social media contest or sweepstakes can be challenging, especially when you consider ROI — inclusive of the total cost of prizes, shipping, and legal counsel — all on a nonprofit’s shoestring budget. But it doesn’t have to be…

Our first Instagram Sweepstakes was successful, in part, due to its low barrier of entry. All our followers needed to do in order to enter was like, comment, or tag a friend on a VolunteerMatch Instagram post that mentioned the Sweepstakes.

If you’re looking to plan a campaign or promotion of your own, be on the lookout for tomorrow’s tips on creating an effective nonprofit campaign on social media.

Did you enjoy our Shark Week campaign? Let us know in the comments section below!

VolunteerMatch on the Street | SHARK WEEK

How many humans do sharks kill each year?

How many sharks do humans kill each year?

We took to the streets of San Francisco to find answers to questions such as these, while having a little fun along the way. Check it out — you might be surprised by the answers!


For this year’s Shark Week, Discovery is ramping up efforts to promote shark conservation while offering viewers concrete ways to get involved. Earlier this week, they partnered with Oceana to introduce congressional legislation that helps ban the trade of shark fins across America. With a ban on trading in the U.S., we can make a huge dent in the commercial and recreational overfishing of sharks around the world.

Here’s how you help:

  1. Join Discovery and Oceana in supporting the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act by sending a letter to your representative.
  2. You can also find volunteer opportunities in your area to help clean up and give back to our oceans.

Discovery even produced this awesome PSA for us — with characters donned in shark fin hats — encouraging passionate TV viewers to be matched with good causes in their communities.

Learn more and get your full dose of all-things “shark” next week: Shark Week begins this Sunday, June 26 at 8:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. CT, only on Discovery.

Can’t wait ‘till Sunday? Read our blog post on 4 things sharks and volunteers have in common.

4 Things Sharks and Volunteers Have in Common

How Volunteers are Like SharksWhen our team first met to discuss how we could be involved with Discovery Communications’ Shark Week, we hoped our followers might ask:

What does volunteering have to do with Shark Week?

After a quick brainstorm and a few laughs, we agreed the best way to spark a conversation about the importance of volunteers and sharks were to connect the two directly. What we found was surprising: we’re not that different after all.

So how are volunteers like sharks, the diverse and powerful creatures of the deep blue sea? Here are four ways.

  1. We’re Endangered

Earlier this year, we analyzed a Bureau of Labor Statistics report on volunteer rates in the United States. The report told us that volunteer rates in the U.S. have been steadily declining for over a decade. In fact, the rate of people who volunteer dropped by nearly 4 percentage points between 2005 and 2015.

We wanted to find the cause, so we took to Twitter to engage our followers in a conversation. Thought leaders, nonprofit representatives, philanthropists and volunteers all weighed in on what they thought some potential causes and possible solutions might be.

Sharks are also disappearing. According to Discovery, scientists have seen crucial populations drop 90% in just one generation. Together, we can pledge to protect sharks and support organizations like Reef Check Foundation and Shark Stewards, who work to preserve and protect our oceans and advocate for policies that promote sustainable fishing practices, respectively.

  1. We Play a Pivotal Role in Society

While the numbers on volunteer rates aren’t promising, our significance in society is undeniable.

Many have posed the question, “What would our world look like without volunteers?” and it isn’t pretty. For one, the estimated $1.6 billion in impact from volunteers who used VolunteerMatch to get involved in 2015 would disappear. Without volunteers giving time, environments around the world would be less prosperous, animal protection initiatives would decline, care for the elderly may diminish, and assistance in times of crisis and need may come become sparse.

As apex predators, sharks play an important role in their society too. They keep our ocean ecosystems healthy and balanced by keeping populations of fish in check. Without sharks, fish would overgraze, destroying large sections of our oceans, and leaving entire ecosystems vulnerable to future threats.

It’s one of many reasons Discovery — alongside Oceana — helped introduce congressional legislation today to ban the sale of shark fins here in the U.S.  Help us help sharks: voice your concern by sending send a letter directly to your representative in support of the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act. Learn more.

  1. We’re Determined

Volunteers are determined to make a difference and leave a positive impact on our communities. With 29 causes and over 118,000 new opportunities posted on VolunteerMatch last year, there’s no shortage to what volunteers can do. And it’s our determination to find a volunteer opportunity with a cause we care about that makes all the difference.

Meanwhile, sharks are surprisingly intelligent creatures. They’re capable of learning, remembering, and even teaching one another. According to Discovery, they’re also curious. Great whites approach and investigate just about any unfamiliar floating object out of curiosity. And when they’re ready to attack their next meal, sharks are determined.

When a shark goes in for the kill, it will move quickly — catching speedy fish with an element of surprise. Sharks can also be found hunting prey all over the world. And like volunteers, some sharks prefer to go the distance alone, while others find strength in numbers.

  1. We Break Stereotypes

Critics say volunteering is for those who have the time, but research shows that volunteering may actually help you save time by adding years to your life. Plus, volunteers often say that they leave their volunteer shift feeling like they’ve gained something in return.

Sharks are also breaking stereotypes. Many think they’re dangerous, but in reality, sharks do not deliberately hunt humans. According to scientists, if a shark attacks a human, it’s typically a case of mistaken identity. And here’s a something we bet you didn’t know: While sharks kill about 6 humans each year, humans kill up to 100 million sharks per year.

What are some ways you think volunteers are like sharks? Share them with us in the comments section below!

Have a Volunteer Story to Share? Enter the #SharkFinbassador Instagram Sweeps

In case you missed it, we’re partnering with Discovery for Shark Week (6/26/16 – 7/2/16) — Discovery’s longest-running cable television programming event in history. During this week and next, we’ll share stories of volunteers making an impact on their environments, and we want you to join the conversation.

As part of the campaign, we’re hosting our very first Instagram Sweeps! You’ll have a chance to win a cool Discovery-branded Shark Week “fin” hat. We are so excited, we had to try the hats on for ourselves!

The VolunteerMatch team tries #SharkWeek hats on for size

How to Enter the #SharkFinbassador Instagram Sweeps:

Here’s how to enter for your chance to win a shark “fin” hat of your own. After you’ve followed @VolunteerMatch on Instagram, you may enter using one of the methods listed below:

  1. Like, comment, or tag a friend on a @VolunteerMatch Instagram post that mentions this Sweepstakes.
  2. Share your volunteer story on Instagram with the hashtags #SharkFinbassador AND #Sweeps.

Please note: by entering, you agree to our rules.

And this Sunday, VolunteerMatch.org, as well as our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts are getting “sharkified.” Look out for changes to our logos and stay tuned for more upcoming Shark Week-themed content!

Discovery and VolunteerMatch Team Up for Shark Week

Earlier this year, VolunteerMatch extended our partnership with Discovery Communications to inspire volunteerism among their passionate viewers. Discovery even created this incredible PSA to help.

Beginning next week, our relationship will get a little more dangerous: VolunteerMatch is daring to enter the waters of Shark Week (6/26/16 – 7/2/16) — Discovery’s longest-running cable television programming event in history. This Sunday, VolunteerMatch.org, as well as our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts are getting “sharkified.” Look out for changes to our logos and upcoming Shark Week-themed content.

Our live map won’t be spared from the grips of jaws either. We’re swapping our iconic “hands” pins with fun shark-themed icons. Here’s a sneak peek:

Sharkified VolunteerMatch Live Map

Wait, wait … what do volunteers and sharks have in common?

We asked ourselves that same question. After a bit of research, it turns out we’re a lot more similar than you’d think! This Thursday, we’ll share 4 reasons volunteers are like sharks here on Engaging Volunteers. And tomorrow — we’re announcing our very first Instagram Sweeps, where you can win cool Shark Week swag.

Follow @VolunteerMatch on Instagram for more information.

Throughout the week, we’re highlighting 12 organizations — from Atlanta to Los Angeles — that focus on marine or environmental causes. We’ll share stories of volunteers and their impact on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Just follow the hashtags: #SaveSharks and #VolunteeringisFin, to participate in the conversation.

And starting today, you’ll be able to visit Discovery and register for a volunteer opportunity of your own. Are you scared … I mean, excited yet? So are we!

Mark your calendar: Shark Week begins this Sunday, June 26. Stay tuned for more details.